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Archive for the ‘Healthy Lunch Tuesday’ Category

I have an amazingly accurate and keen memory. Smells, situations, conversations and confrontations remain sharply intact in the recesses of my brain. The cologne of a stranger on a crowded metro train will bring memories of an ex tumbling forth, and studying always came very easy to me. After rereading a notebook once or twice, I had the material emblazed in my brain. Of course, the ability to recall things with such ease has a downfall; I have a hard time pushing hurtful things out of my brain. Even minor barbs, long forgotten by whoever said them, play over and over.

My friend B was my high school boy friend. It pleases me to no end that we still love each other despite all our early sexual fumblings. God, how I wish I could forget those… He always marvels at my ability to recall the most minute details of our relationship. (Synopsis: I was pushy and stubborn. B was patient and saintly.) He wishes I could forget that he ruined the end of a “farewell to Arms” for me (asshole!) or the first time we got drunk and smoked pot, but I never will. Thank you, B, for being part of my downward slide.

B’s mom was a great cook and things were much different food-wise at his house than mine. I have memories of consuming the exotic fare of Chinese chicken salad and hummus for the first time at his house, as well as cous cous…

Ever since my virgin cous cous voyage, I have been in love. It’s a go to side for me, as well as an easy dish to prepare for a cookout of potluck. This cous cous dish was part of my birthday dinner with Irish lebowski. Served warm, it was a surprisingly filling and healthy side due to the black beans and tomatoes. We made this with cous cous as it was much easier on a week night, but quinoa would be excellent and especially appealing to vegetarians. I took some home as left overs, threw a handful of green beans on top, and happily ate this as a healthy lunch for two days. For ease, we used a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh. (Weird fact: the canning process actually makes tomatoes healthier.) The original recipe calls for scallions, but due to Irish’s severe aversion to anything onion, those were left out. This was great without them, but I suggest trying them for added depth of flavor.

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Black Bean and Tomato Cous Cou/Quinoa

Adapted from Gourmet

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup quinoa or box plain cous cous

1 (14- to 15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.

Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time OR prepare box of cous cous.

(If making quinoa: Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for 2 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve in same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam over medium heat until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and remove lid. Let stand, still covered with towel, 5 minutes.)

Add cous cous/quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

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In college, my friends diagnosed me with a syndrome they dubbed “the rage”. The rage is something I have suffered from almost my whole life, an affliction that shakes those in my path.

It works something like this: I cannot find something or I royally screw something up or I am trapped in a situation. Suddenly, a switch will flip and I go from 0 to 60 in about 2.2 seconds, shouting profanities and pacing back and forth. Sometimes, there is slamming of doors and my (wimpy) fist on a hard surface. I have become fairly adept at keeping it together in my later years–silently stewing inside while the rage threatens to bubble out–but those who know me can see I am about to boil over. A lot of times it involves me rummaging on my floor screaming “Where are my f’ing black stilettos?”as I violently launch things around the room in my quest for the missing footwear. Some instances of rage that are particularly memorable: writing a paper on the WRONG WAR in my American Studies class freshman year, the washer/dryer eating my money at my apartment complex halfway through a load, and a Puerto Rican accordion troupe pushing me to the brink at a San Juan airport. I look utterly ridiculous when this happens, but I can barely control it. Many laughs are stifled by friends and family.

The rage has gotten better as I have matured and it is rarely focused on anyone but myself. I just get pissed when I screw myself over. That being said, if someone has witnessed a rageful scenario, it is reasonable they may fear they will come in my scopes some day. So, when I returned from the gym Monday night to see Annie Birdie waiting for me nervously, with hesitation, I knew something was up.

Before leaving for the gym, I asked her to pull my chicken breasts out of the oven when the buzzer beeped. She somehow got distracted by her phone–I’d like to think discussing a solution to world hunger with the President because what is more important than my chicken–and never heard the oven beep. So, when I came home I was confronted with some very well done chicken. It had shrunk to half it’s size, was a nasty brown color and possessed a weird, crispy, hardened layer. She was thoroughly apologetic, but she learned a vital lesson about me: I will always be more angry with myself than someone else. I actually wasn’t much pissed at all, just a little out of sorts because my plan for the evening was foiled.

Any minor annoyance I may have felt was smoothed over with many “hot nuts” jokes when I threw together this curry chicken salad. Like most of my recipes, this is heavily open to individual interpretation. I just grabbed some stuff at the store and threw in a bunch of things hanging in the pantry. Some other ingredients that could be substituted/added are almonds, diced peppers, crasins, celery, scallions, pears, dried cherries, etc… These measurements are all estimates, easily tinkered to suit individual taste. Poaching the chicken–something that occurred to me after the great Annie Birdie Disaster of 2007–makes a huge difference as it keeps the chicken extremely moist. The curry is the real key–it adds punch and a welcome change of pace.

Just keep one eye on the stove while making this…

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Curry Chicken Salad

A Lemmonex Original

5 chicken tenders or 2 breasts

2 cups water (I used 1/2 water 1/2 chicken broth to preserve some flavor)

3 Tablespoons walnuts

1 granny smith apple

3 Tablespoons raisins

2 Tablespoons currants

2 Tablespoons onions, finely diced

1 Tablespoon curry powder

2 1/2 Tablespoons fat free mayo

Salt and pepper

Poach chicken in salted water (or broth/water combo) until cooked (about 8 minutes with the tenders). As chicken poaches, toast nuts and chop when cooled. Dice apples and onions. In bowl, mix nuts, onions, apples, currants, and raisins. When chicken cools, add chop and add the nut/apple mixture. Add mayo, curry, salt and pepper and mix.

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The path to my blog addiction was born out of boredom at work. A friend innocently passed on a celeb gossip site to me about two years ago and a beast was created. The daily visits to this site were not enough and the slow updates bored me…I abandoned it for much greener gossip blog pastures.

But a gal can only take so much gossip. I found the now departed DC blog “Kathryn On” and it shut down a few months later. Isn’t this always the way? It did lead me to the usual local suspects, and hours filled with laughs, slight shock and even a friend. Things snowballed from there, and between local bloggers, makeup blogs (a secret dream of mine is to indulge my creative side and become a make up artist), gems from out of town and just general randomness, blogs became a time consuming obsession.

I finally found my blog bliss when I fell into the cooking blog world. Smitten Kitchen was the holy grail, but many others followed. Cooking is something I love! And something that I actually posess talent in! These places on the interweb spoke to me. It was home. Without all these blogs, I never would have learned that October 14th was “National Chocolate Covered Insect Day” (I cannot make this up) or that we are currently in the midst of “National Chili Month“.

The knowledge of all these food holidays, the unbearable weight of so many recipes to try, is your windfall. In celebration of National Chili Month, I adapted a chicken white bean chili for “Healthy Lunch Tuesday”. The main adaptations include using cooking spray instead of oil, fat free half-and-half in lieu of full fat cream and all white meat. It is a shame you cannot see the pale green flecks from the green chilis that run through this hearty meal in the photo; they are beautiful. This is all the flavorful, meatiness of a chili without an ounce of the guilt.

Who knew addiction could be so fruitful?

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White Bean Chicken Chili

Adapted from Wine Skinny

Cooking spray

1 large onion, chopped

5 large garlic cloves, chopped

1½ tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or more to taste

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast,tenders, etc, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed

8 ounces chicken broth, fat free and low sodium

7-ounce canned diced green chilies, drained

1/2 cup fat free half-and-half

Grated cheddar cheese and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Spray large heated pan. Add onion, garlic, cumin, oregano and dried red pepper. Sauté 5 minutes. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan. Sauté an additional 5 minutes.

Drain beans; reserving 1/2 cup bean liquid. Add beans, broth, chilies, half and half, and reserved bean liquid to chicken. Simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into serving bowls. Top with cheese and sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

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For all the hating I do on vegetarians, I fell compelled to admit that I did, in fact, go through a stage where I did not eat red meat.  I could never bring myself to abandon chicken, but I made a valiant effort, as only a 13-year-old carry out, to forgo animal product.

I don’t know why I decided to give up red meat, but I believe it had something to do with my friend, Cupcake.  I found her to be exceptionally witty and charismatic and I wanted to emulate her.  Like I said, I was 13; it is a time in any young woman’s life where she wants to be anybody but herself. Apparently, to be like Cupcake meant giving up my beloved steak.

This was a major point of contention and source of annoyance to my family, but they humored me.  My red meat aversion lasted all the way through high school, until I left for college.  Faced with the poor choices in the food court upon arriving at GW, I abandoned all my principals for a Whopper at the Burger King in the Marvin Center. I believe this decision still pains my father–who had to work around my dietary restrictions-to this day, but that greasy monstrosity was worth it, even though it made me violently ill. (Now might be a good time for me to once again mention the following: I have many close veggie friends, I respect their opinions, I see their points in many ways, but we agree to disagree.)

My love affair with beef, especially steak, still carries on.  Though I eat chicken breasts several times a week as a matter of convenience and health, my heart will always be with steak.  I will never understand people who claim it is too heavy or say it wreaks havoc on their systems. It is meat, people: you should feel it in the pit of your stomach and it feels good. 

This weeks “Healthy Lunch Tuesday” is based on steak, and it could not make me happier that something good for me contains beef.  It is super simple-almost too simple-but a good recipe to have up your sleeve. I marinated a top round steak (though I admit flank steak is a better option, they were out of flanks) for 5 hours, grilled it, threw it on top of some spinach, tomatoes, and onions and called it a day.  I have been using a very light dressing and eating this meal without an ounce of guilt. I did lose track of time and wish the meat were a tad rarer, but as long as it is not well done, I can deal with it. If this were a dinner salad, I would through some gorgonzola and toasted pine nuts on top, but I am trying to avoid those heavy additions with my lunches.  I have used this marinade at BBQs multiple times and always get asked for the recipe.  The recipe is something that has evolved over the years and has now become my own. I find it incredibly convenience to throw together as most of these things can always be found in my kitchen.  It has never failed me.

Not that steak could ever fail me…

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Never Fail Steak Marinade

A Lemonnex Original

Ground pepper

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar, light or dark

2 tablespoons Worchester sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Grind pepper liberally on steak.  Mix remaining ingredients together, whisking in oil last.  Marinate for at least three hours (up to 24). Bring steak to room temperature and grill. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serve over salad. 

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Every single time I head to my local Whole Foods, the man behind the meat counter asks me the same question as he gestures to the pair of sunglasses perched on top of my head: “So, tell me something, Young Lady, when you put those glasses, do you have a whole new identity?”

And my response is always the same: “Yep, I’m a double agent. Don’t trust me.”

This guy is a weird dude, always kinda lingering around behind the counter and looking at me the whole time he pulls together my order. I find myself silently begging that he pay attention to what he is doing, lest he cut off his thumb preparing my sirloin tips. He always seems deep in thought, and every single time I am sure this will be the visit he says something original, something besides the old sunglasses line. This never happens, but I have hope.

Shady Whole Food Guy and me, though, we have a bond. He has a line, I play along, we are both happy. I am a shameless flirt, so it works for me, even if it is a bit off-putting. He cannot hurt me from behind his big glass case. I am sure the hippies in corporate would frown on his vague sexual harassment, but honestly, when I am in the trenches of Whole Foods Hell on a busy Sunday afternoon, I find this charade oddly comforting.

The same exact thing happened when I purchased the chicken chorizo for this soup over the weekend. I was feeling indecisive as to how much sausage I wanted to throw in to the soup, but he showed me the patience only he can show me. I do think I settled on the perfect amount of chorizo for the soup, so I appreciate his tolerance.

The original recipe for this soup was already quite healthful, full of nutrients from the sweet potatoes and spinach. I was able to make it even healthier by cutting the amount of oil (it seemed excessive), using chicken chorizo instead of pork and using more sweet potatoes and less white potato. I am also glad I resisted the urge to add more spices to the pot; the beauty of this soup is the chorizo spices up the broth by letting off its smoky flavor. Mashing the potatoes roughly breaks them down, lacing the liquid with sweetness and some starch. The soup is a beautiful, flavorful light orange that only gets better the next day. It is so great that Epicurious featured it as its “Recipe of the Day” today-I feel like a visionary. This is a proven winner.

Thank you, Shady Whole Foods Guy, for making this possible.

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Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup

Adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 chorizo sausages (I used chicken chorizo)
2 medium onions, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; about 2 large), peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 9-ounce bag fresh spinach

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook until brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towels to drain. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add all potatoes and cook until beginning to soften, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Add broth; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Using potato masher, mash some of potatoes in pot. Slice sausage in to thin, round coins. Add sausage to soup. Stir in spinach and simmer just until wilted, about 5 minutes.. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 8 servings.

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I am a New England girl at heart.

The changing of the leaves thrills me and I am most comfortable in tall boots and a sweater.  The season’s first snow is a joyous day.  Dunkin’ Donuts are the only real donuts in my book; I have an insatiable lust for their French Vanilla iced coffee.  I am pragmatic and a tad detached.  I prove polite, but not chatty, with strangers.

As a New Englander through and through, I can not be more pleased that fall is upon us. It is my most favorite season, cool and crisp without the frigidity of winter.  Also, winter makes me break out in hives.  This only started when I moved to DC…  It’s miserable, but the good folks at Benadryl are pleased with my daily habit in the winter months. 

It’s no surprise fall foods are my siren call. While I enjoy the fresh herbs and flavorful fruits and vegetables of the summer, I always secretly wait for the weather to cool so I can eat my kind of food; soups, roasts, stews, and warm oatmeal feel like home.

As I poured over cookbooks and the interwebs for a “Healthy Lunch Tuesday” recipe, it was hard to resist the pages full of squash and sweet potatoes.  Yet, it is hard to think about all these comfort foods without also admitting to myself that it is 85 freaking degrees out.  It is still not weather that makes me want to roast a chicken.

So, as a last hoorah to summer, I threw together this Chicken Fiesta Salad. (Look at me, so official, making original names for my recipes.)  Bean and cornswith a healthy dose of fresh lime juice scream summer to me.  I lost my damn mind and decided to undertake soaking my own beans; I will not be doing this again.  They are turned out fine, but honestly, it is just a huge pain in the ass and in the future, I am going back to canned beans.  This would be great with some cilantro, and if I were making it for a party, I would have used some.  Over the course of a week, I feared the cilantro turning black in the salad. (Same with tomatoes; they would have been awesome in here, but probably mush by Friday.)  This would also be great without the chicken for my vegetarian friends. With the beans and chicken, it is a low fat but protein filled lunch. 

With this recipe, summer food leaves for a few months, along with my tan lines, roof top decks and sandals.

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Chicken Fiesta Salad

Chicken Marinade

1 lime, juiced

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

Salt and Pepper

2 large chicken breasts

Dressing

2 limes, juiced

1 ½ Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

A few shakes hot sauce (optional)

Salt and Pepper

Salad

2–15.5 oz. cans black beans, rinsed

1–15 oz. can Golden Corn

½ red onion, chopped

Marinate chicken for 30 minutes.  Grill on Foreman Grill, grill pan or bake in oven until cooked through (internal temperature of 180°).  Set whole chicken breasts asides to let juices settle.  Prepare dressing, juicing limes first and then whisking in oil and remaining ingredients.  Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and pour dressing over bean mixture.  Using two forks, shred chicken and add to salad.  Chill. Makes 5 servings.   

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…and lately I feel like it may be the button on my pants.

A summer of reckless eating habits and non-stop drinking has torn my shit up. The mystery rash (yes, the one I mentioned a week ago…) still lives. It is getting better, but, y’all, it ain’t good.  Ray Charles could read War and Peace off the bumps on my stomach.  The skin on my face is kinda icky and I am tired as hell.  I am just a worn down, itchy, blotchy, exhausted mess.

This disregard to my health is not helping my malaise regarding the direction of my life. Or, more than likely, it is all tied together. 

Most distressing of all are my tightening pants.  A girl cannot live on wine, beer, and bar food alone, but I have had a good run attempting that feat the past four months.  I have discussed my life long battle with the bulge here before; more than two years of really buckling down and controlling things has given me enough wisdom to know it is time to tighten this ship up and get things in order before despair sets in. Don’t worry–I will spare you the neurotic ramblings of a former fatty for now; this is a time for action, not reflection. Fret not; I am sure one day I will pontificate on this topic.

So, a new weekly feature has been born: healthy lunch Tuesday.  I can feel your excitement! One of the biggest mistakes I have been making lately is not planning for lunches; this leads to impulse decisions like pizza and mayo laden sandwiches from some greasy hole in the wall.  I am not swearing these things off, I promise you; they are my life blood.  Just, if I am going to eat these things, I would like for them to count, not to taste like the bottom of a damn shoe. Every Sunday, I vow to make a health conscious dish to pack for the week and post the results on Tuesday. I don’t know if I can eat the same thing for five days straight, so I am sure there will be a salad from home or a Lean Cuisine thrown in there at some point, but still…healthy! Better than a burrito!  Hopefully this will keep me accountable and maybe point all my faithful readers (Thanks, mom!) towards some healthier recipes, too. Not that any of you need to watch what you eat; you are all beautiful children of the universe.

Lentils are one of the nature’s superfoods. Full of iron, protein and fiber, they provide some serious bang for the nutritional buck. They are also cheap as hell, which is perfect for those of us on budgets (or those of us who like to impulsively buy red patent peep toed pumps with blatant disregard to the bank account.) This is a super flavorful casserole and reheats really well. It is packed full of veggies and very filling. Some changes I have made to the recipe include using Italian Style canned tomatoes for more flavor and waaaaay cutting down on the (reduced fat) cheese on top. Three cups of cheese is a sack and a half! There is no need for this. Annie Birdie mentioned this may be good using some cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup. I think this is genius and will probably try it the next time.

This is a dish worthy of the innaugural addition of “Healthy Lunch Tuesday”. Things are changing.

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Lentil Casserole
Adapted from Cooks.com

1 3/4 c. lentils
2 c. water or stock
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. oregano, dried
1/8 tsp. sage, dried
1/8 tsp. thyme, dried
2 lg. onions, finely chopped or grated
2 cloves garlic
2 c. canned Italian Style tomatoes
2 lg. carrots, sliced
3/4 c. celery, chopped
1/2 c. green pepper, chopped
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1 c. reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine first eleven ingredients in shallow 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cover tightly and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and stir in carrots and celery, green pepper and parsley. Bake 40 more minutes, adding some water if it becomes too dry. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheddar on top. Bake until cheese is melted and serve. Makes a lot, ~8-10 servings.

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